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Gov. Bush OKs budget, vetoes fast-train funds

(The following article by Paige St. John appeared in Florida Today on June 24.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Vowing again to find a way to kill Florida's high-speed rail system, Gov. Jeb Bush struck funding for the voter-mandated project from the state budget he signed Monday.

The $53.5 billion spending plan for 2003-04 goes into effect July 1.

The governor used his opposition to the way the state's High Speed Rail Authority is set up to justify his veto of $7.2 million that was to have begun construction of the Tampa-Orlando rail system.

Brevard County's delegation is split on the high-speed rail veto.

"The special interests are going to be the only ones aggrieved by this," said Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, who tried without avail to get Bush's re-vote request passed in the House earlier this year.

Allen said he would try again next spring. He said he now has enough to secure the three-fifths majority to put the issue in front of voters.

"We're sure about voters having a chance to repeal this," Allen said.

Rep. Thad Altman, R-West Melbourne, is looking toward the next session for other reasons -- to secure funding for the railroad authority.

"We're just going to have to get a bill this summer, to fix the governor's concern," he said. "In the meantime, the authority is still alive, we have $2 million in federal funds, and this summer it will decide on a route and a vendor."

Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Palm Bay, opposed Allen's efforts to legislatively mandate a revote. Instead, Needelman is collecting voter signatures to call for a re-vote.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

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